Billie Holiday

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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Throughout history, the entertainment and show business world has been perceived as a very difficult field to be successful in. Specifically, the African American performers endured many hardships to make it in the real world. Gardenia also known as Billie Holiday was an African American woman who was raised in a dysfunctional family, and lived in prostitute dwellings. Gardenia life was influenced by social issues, men, and drugs, which led to her downfall and death.

During the 1930s through the 1940s, the depression and World War II were turning points in history. The economy drastically decreased and people did not have many opportunities. As a result of the depression and the war, there were no recordings, nor any plastic for records. Gardenia and her group split up. The white jazz bands wanted her, and she had to try everything. Also, during this time society became very chaotic. Reed (one of the musicians in her band) gets a notice from the Draft Board calling him to pick up a gun.

Reed says "what I want with a gun, when I got my horn? My horn made people stop and listen. Who is going to listen to me with a gun in my hand?" Additionally, another example of society looking down on Holiday was when the white producer didn't want to pay them what they deserved for the hard work they put in that recording session. Overall, the social issues that Gardenia faced throughout her career made it more difficult to reach fame during these hard times.

Gardenia was an attractive women admired by many men. She had a beautiful voice, which was completed by a beautiful face. The men in her life change her perception of life. On her journey to fame, she meets "the boys" (the members of her band). She compulsively attaches herself to men who mistreat her. The boys in her band were there when she needed something from them. Their relationship is based on interest. Gardenia turned to men to give her hope, confidence, comfort, and happiness. Finger was one of the men in her path. He was in love with Gardenia and described her as being loving, and fantastic. On the contrary, Mallets was her materialistic man. She liked him because of what he could get for her. She says "I am going to make it with Mallets so I can get some of that stuff he's got there." Mallets supplied her with drugs in return for money or sex. The producer also was a very deceptive man. Gardenia sleeps with him only because she needed the cash to pay her boys. She tried to convince him to give her the money, but it didn't work so she tells him "why don't we make a personal and go somewhere after the session?" Reed, on the other hand, who truly man wants her to grow up and take responsibilities of her life. Gardenia does not love him because she has this give and take relationship with men. Basically, it is what she can get from them.

At the same time her career was becoming popular, Gardenia's private life was deteriorating. She started using hard drugs. These drugs had a great impact on her life. She later on looses her substantial earnings, and becomes weaker as an individual, and her self-esteem and self-confidence deteriorate. Gardenia takes these drugs to release all the stress and anxiety within her. This caused her to go drastically downhill, and made her voice become worse. Gardenia did not choose to be a drug addict or an alcoholic, but in fact, this was her painkiller. She suffered emotionally and the drug's altered her mind's perception of reality. Gardenia was unhappy, hopeless, and endured many difficulties, which led her to be a drug abuser.

In conclusion, Gardenia remains one of the most famous female jazz singers. The emotional intensity that she put into the words she sings will be remembered by her admires. Society and men mistreated her in her life, which resulted in her taking drugs. In the final chapter of her life, she was placed under arrest for drug possession while on her deathbed!